In America we wish someone “happy birthday” whereas the Italians say, “Buon compleanno,” good wishes for the completion of one year and the start of the next. I like the concept of a birthday not just as a single day, moment, or anniversary, but as the celebration of a span of time that connects the past and the future.

Last weekend, I spent many days celebrating my birthday – concerts and sunshine, friends and family, fireworks and French dinners, late nights and slow mornings – it was a series of moments connecting 36 with 37. Mixed in amongst the wonderful gifts I received (including a bedazzled plastic rat from my cousin, Ali – true story), the best gifts were the moments that connected me with those I love.

As the next solar return dawns, I’m also looking forward (and back) to Civita and Venice, where I’ll visit again next month. The stages and the main characters will be familiar, but the plot, the lines, and some of my co-stars will be different. I have half a mind to bring the rat with me to photograph like the Travelocity gnome, but I think Nerone might have other ideas…